Website helps governmental agencies sell used equipment
By Craig Smith
Published: Saturday, July 13, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
When the Harmar Municipal Authority decided to sell the 13-year-old car used by its meter reader, it joined a growing number of municipalities and government agencies turning to online auctions to unload unwanted equipment.
The 2000 Chevy Impala with 138,000 miles drew no interest through local advertisements but received almost two dozen online bids in one week, through the website municibid.com, said Joe McCollum, the authority's operations administrator.
The successful bidder, from Nazareth in Northampton County, paid $1,160 for the recycled police cruiser — a little more than the authority expected.
“We were asking about $1,000 initially,” said McCollum.
Municipal officials said online bidding and nationwide exposure opens the process to more people and can drive prices higher.
The Penn Township Sewage Authority received 29 bids in two weeks for its 1998 1-ton truck and set of tool boxes that it sold for more than $5,000, said its manager, Stanley Caroline.
“We'd have been lucky to get two-to-three bids using traditional methods,” he said. “It's a great way to reach out to a lot of people.”
Brackenridge Borough on Thursday approved an $1,100 bid for a 2004 Ford Explorer, its first sale on municibid.com.
“We heard a lot of good feedback. ... Everybody has a computer,” said Denise Tocco, borough secretary.
Larger municipalities have caught online auction fever, too.
Officials in Moon sold nearly a dozen pieces of heavy equipment, including bulldozers, dump trucks, flatbeds and a snow plow.
“It's a really nice option for us,” township Manager Jeanne Creese said. “We tend to get a wider response. ... It's sort of the eBay for municipalities.”
An estimated 1,000 government agencies, including 625 in Pennsylvania, use the website, said founder Greg Berry, a former councilman in Pottstown. Established in 2006, municibid.com serves all 50 states and Canada.
Bidding on a tractor boom went too high, said Crafton Manager Robert Callen. That doesn't mean the borough won't try bidding online again.
“We think it's a good outlet for municipalities to sell to each other ... and we may be putting a paver and roller on (municibid.com) in the coming weeks,” he said.
Items offered on the site range from automobiles and boats to collectables, decorations, furniture and sporting goods. Weston, Mass., listed a fully functioning observatory dome.
Berry said he founded municibid.com because government agencies were selling surplus equipment for pennies on the dollar. Few people knew the items were for sale and the sealed-bid process they used was not truly competitive.
“It's so much more convenient and less intimidating for the public,” Berry said. “They don't have to go to the municipal building and fill out a bunch of forms. ... They can bid online.”
Craig Smith is a Trib Total Media staff writer. He can be reached at 412-380-5646 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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